Is scientific genius extinct?


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http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/03/is-scientific-genius-extinct/?intcmp=features

"Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or

accumulation of findings that cannot be explained,

that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes."

"This isn't the first time someone has predicted that

science's most exciting days are over."

Dennis

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The same question is addressed by Gleick in his biography of Feynman. The word "genius" as we understand it comes from the Enlightenment. Prior to that, a genius was only a jin or jinni, that is, a spirit and usually represented the Spirit of the People. On ancient coins, a symbolic deity often is described in catalogs as "Genius of the City" or "Genius of Rome" etc., when no other representation such as Tyche or a patronymic hero fits. Only in the 1700s as romanticism evolved from classicism did the work apply to the spirit of an individual. Also, of course, at this time, that spirit was ineffable, not to be reduced to causal explanation. Later genius was associated with madness. And here we are. Lots of physicists are smart. Only a few were called geniuses by their peers.

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http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/03/is-scientific-genius-extinct/?intcmp=features

"Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or

accumulation of findings that cannot be explained,

that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes."

Dennis

According to Kuhn, the persistent problems in theoretical physics is the pregnant moment.

A similar thing happened just before Planck invented quantum physics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/03/is-scientific-genius-extinct/?intcmp=features

"Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or

accumulation of findings that cannot be explained,

that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes."

Dennis

According to Kuhn, the persistent problems in theoretical physics is the pregnant moment.

A similar thing happened just before Planck invented quantum physics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Back in the day the pregnancy didn't last for generations. You have to look to pre-Newton

times to see the kind of stagnation that is setting in.

Dennis

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http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/03/is-scientific-genius-extinct/?intcmp=features

"Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or

accumulation of findings that cannot be explained,

that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes."

Dennis

According to Kuhn, the persistent problems in theoretical physics is the pregnant moment.

A similar thing happened just before Planck invented quantum physics.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Back in the day the pregnancy didn't last for generations. You have to look to pre-Newton

times to see the kind of stagnation that is setting in.

Dennis

As long as the applications are active and fertile I will not worry. We can live off the interest for a while. And it is not generations it is about 30 years of theoretical dead end in a certain branch of physics. In other branches of science, biology especially molecular genetics we are flying high, wide and handsome. And I will wager biology is of more immediate importance than particle and field physics. That physics of materials is doing quite well.

The hang up over strings and branes has not stopped the development of 3-d printing either. And spintronic storage may put off the blockage of compact electronic mechanisms for a while. I think we are spoiled to expect a break through every 100 years. I do not see that as any kind of a hard or fast rule in science. Physics was barren for nearly 2000 years following Aristotle and his buddies. I see a lot a really nifty mathematics just waiting for the right physicists to put it to honest work. That is what Einstein did with Riemann's geometry. Mathematics is fat city and boom town rolled into one.

When the math dries up, then I will begin to worry.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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And it is not generations it is about 30 years of theoretical dead end in a certain branch of physics.

We view the origin of the problems differently - I see the problem starting in 1904 with the failure of the greater physics community to recognize JJ Thomson's solution to vexing problems in thermodynamics.

I think we are spoiled to expect a break through every 100 years. I do not see that as any kind of a hard or fast rule in science.

There is no such rule or time table as you say.

That is what Einstein did with Riemann's geometry. Mathematics is fat city and boom town rolled into one.

Since I've never supported General Relativity I don't see it that way. It is a failed theory which I saw as a bad approach since I was 15 years old.

Dennis

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It's not scientific advancements, it's the evolution of society to support, preserve and help advance those that come along. Archimedes was what--two thousand years ahead of his time? He invented a calculus.

--Brant

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And it is not generations it is about 30 years of theoretical dead end in a certain branch of physics.

We view the origin of the problems differently - I see the problem starting in 1904 with the failure of the greater physics community to recognize JJ Thomson's solution to vexing problems in thermodynamics.

I think we are spoiled to expect a break through every 100 years. I do not see that as any kind of a hard or fast rule in science.

There is no such rule or time table as you say.

That is what Einstein did with Riemann's geometry. Mathematics is fat city and boom town rolled into one.

Since I've never supported General Relativity I don't see it that way. It is a failed theory which I saw as a bad approach since I was 15 years old.

Dennis

It got us GPS. Some failure. It also predicts better than Newtonian gravitation. It got the orbit of Mercury nailed. Some failure. It predicted the bending of light around the sun. Some failure. It got the gravitational red shift right. Some failure. If Einstein had not fiddled with GTR it would have predicted the expansion of the cosmos. That was a failure.

And do you have a better theory that is at least as well backed up as GTR.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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OK... Getting your science from Fox News is problematic at best. The Fox story linked back to LiveScience, and thanks for that, Dennis. I added it to my Favorites. However, Wynn Pary is just another writer who distills what she finds in the scientific literature, turning it into presentable copy: she's a penny-a-liner, not a critical researcher. So, she picked up this story from Nature and posted it to LiveScience where Fox found it. So, you really need to go back to the original article in Nature. And you need to track the author, Dean Keith Simonton, whose Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity was published in 1999. He is milking an old work to stay current. Read about him here:

http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Simonton/

And by the way, relevant to another topic here on MSK's OL, Simonton has written about the IQs of presidents.

As for his boswell, Wynn Parry also wrote this:

Does global warming cause animals to shrink?

A study of copepods found that the growth rates of the tiny marine crustaceans is highly sensitive to temperature, with implications for the entire food chain.

She just scrapes up news to repeat. I understand completely. I have a blog, too.

That all being whatever it may, Dennis and Robert agree using different words. The 100 years between Galileo and Newton were the time of the scientists whom Arthur Koestler called The Sleepwalkers. Kepler, deBrahe, Descartes... they all came close, but never woke up to the Truth that Newton perceived. Science is not on a timetable. Myself, I expect no advances in physics until Zafram Cochrane invents warp drive in 2063.

But it is totally wrong to claim as echoed by Wynn Parry that no new sciences have been launched, just mergers of old sciences such as biochemistry and biophysics. Computer science and information theory should be obvious to anyone who claims to research modern science. Moreover, as brilliant as Darwin was, his biology was entirely descriptive whereas now biolgists experiment with DNA. So, it is not perceptive to claim that there are no new sciences. Biology suddenly became new.

As for "genius" when you face the fact that we have no objective measure of mere "intelligence" all we can say of genius is that you know it when you see it, the same test that differentiates pornography from art.

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And it is not generations it is about 30 years of theoretical dead end in a certain branch of physics.

We view the origin of the problems differently - I see the problem starting in 1904 with the failure of the greater physics community to recognize JJ Thomson's solution to vexing problems in thermodynamics.

I think we are spoiled to expect a break through every 100 years. I do not see that as any kind of a hard or fast rule in science.

There is no such rule or time table as you say.

That is what Einstein did with Riemann's geometry. Mathematics is fat city and boom town rolled into one.

Since I've never supported General Relativity I don't see it that way. It is a failed theory which I saw as a bad approach since I was 15 years old.

Dennis

It got us GPS. Some failure. It also predicts better than Newtonian gravitation. It got the orbit of Mercury nailed. Some failure. It predicted the bending of light around the sun. Some failure. It got the gravitational red shift right. Some failure. If Einstein had not fiddled with GTR it would have predicted the expansion of the cosmos. That was a failure.

And do you have a better theory that is at least as well backed up as GTR.

Ba'al Chatzaf

As you know GTR plus Dark Matter has failed as a theory to predict orbits in Spiral Galaxies. Failure is failure. At least 4 other theories [and my own] can predict such orbits in Spiral Galaxies better than failed GTR. Lots of theories can produce some numbers matching observation while being fundamentally wrong.

Dennis

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As you know GTR plus Dark Matter has failed as a theory to predict orbits in Spiral Galaxies. Failure is failure. At least 4 other theories [and my own] can predict such orbits in Spiral Galaxies better than failed GTR. Lots of theories can produce some numbers matching observation while being fundamentally wrong.

Dennis

That they did. GTR is currently the best theory of gravitation we have. MOND does not cut it, because it does not predict the red shift.

The fact of the matter is none of our theories are perfect. The quantized theories fail because they do not touch gravitation. GTR fails not only for the reason you gave (the motion curves of galaxies are not Keplarian) but because it is inconsistent with the quantum nature of matter.

Everyone of our physical theories is wrong going back to Galileo and Newton. GTR still is the current champ on regions of spacetime where the gravitational field is not too strong. It sure works in the Solar System. And it has lead to GPS. Newtonian gravitation does not do that.

So what if our theories are wrong in extremis. . The theories we have still work on a wide variety of physical effects.

It took 300 years to fix Newtonian gravitation and even then only partly.

And you complain that we have not fixed up quantum theory and relativity in 40 years!

Tell me chum, do you have anything better that is backed up by experiment and for which the experiments have been independently corroborated?

If not, you are just moaning and groaning.

In the mean time people are working hard to fix the defects and the applied physics is in good shape. Proof? Look at the technology we have compared to what was available in 1899 at the end of the Victorian Period, one of the most vigorous periods of growth.

By the way. Your theory is just speculation and wishful daydreaming until experiment corroborates it. Your theory is not even a theory without sufficient evidence., Your "theory" is speculation which may or may not turn out to be right. When the experiments back you up then you may boast about it. Shit man! You haven't even published and had it vetted by professionals. Shame on you for boasting.

Einstein did not make a peep until Max Planck helped to get him published and then he had to wait for experiment to back him up. At which point he not only peeped, he got promoted from the patent office to a professorship at a top notch German university.

Physics DOES NOT COUNT unless back up by replicated experiment. Until then it is just vapor ware.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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And you complain that we have not fixed up quantum theory and relativity in 40 years!

108 years of failure for relativity, 88 years for quantum theory.

You haven't even published and had it vetted by professionals. Shame on you for boasting.

Not boasting - any theory that produces the correct results using only visible matter is superior to GTR nearly everywhere in the observable universe - except for perhaps the scale of a solar system. So GTR has a tiny scale where it works well - overall it is a miserable failure and certainly all of its cosmological applications are now suspect.

Einstein did not make a peep until Max Planck helped to get him published and then he had to wait for experiment to back him up. At which point he not only peeped, he got promoted from the patent office to a professorship at a top notch German university.

Since I don't support any of Einsteins gravity or relativity work that really doesn't provide useful guidance. Einstein did good work in several areas and will be remembered for that work - but the work he is most famous for isn't going to survive historical scrutiny. His star will fall several notches at some point.

Dennis

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Sorry to see this get derailed and wind down. It is a cogent problem. I am almost done with James Gleick's Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Gleick explores genius, but never comes to any conclusions, as, indeed, few, if any, are possilble.

Granted the problem of illusory superiority - everybody thinks that they are above average - you do not find a lot of average people in physics. Among his peers, Feynman was recognized as a genius.

Gleick cites Stephen Jay Gould on the problem of the .400 hitter. Major league baseball today also has no .100 hitters. The mean has moved to the right. Pitching is better, also, of course. The sport of baseball in its entirety is more demanding. So, too, is physics. The inventory required of the average graduate student today includes everything invented and discovered before by Heisenberg, and Dirac, and Feynman, and Feynman's peer generation. So, what makes a "genius" that a successful graduate student is not?

To expect some kind of paradigm-shattering breakthrough in physics is unrealistic. It may take an entire lifetime (three generations) for everything known to be absorbed by one (or two) special minds who will perceive the way to untie (not cut) the gordian knot.

... or maybe not...

Maybe this is as far as physics goes and the next breakthrough comes from information theory. We live in an information age, we say, but Claude Shannon may be our Galileo and our Newton was just born in 2001.

Do we speak of "the end of genius" in tool and die? Back about 1880 to 1920, a toolmaker or a diemaker was judged by the tools he made for himself. In On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors, John Delorean spoke about his father's generation of tool-and-die men. When I was in high school (1965), we were told that tool and die would always be around. Never mind robotics. Someone has to make the machines that make the machines. In the Karel Capek play RUR: Rossum's Universal Robots (1920), the rebellious machines spare the life ot the engineer. I am not sure that he could be found today. Engineering genius (if it exists) is the .320 hitter of technology.

Or maybe the specific field of engineering is no longer mechanical. The frontline has long since ceased to be civil engineering. Biotech is the new frontier: living nanosystems are sexier than nuclear power plants. Indeed, information theory informs the frontiers of biotechnology.

I am willing to bet a greenback dollar that railroading has a genius somewhere. But to demand that railroading produce a genius is to misperceive the present future indicative of humanity.

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Also, the easier problems are solved first. In the orchard of Ideas, the low hanging fruit is the first to disappear.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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